Show of Hands and friends return to their home turf
Sidmouth Folk Week 2011 review
published: Tue 16th Aug 2011
last updated: Tue 19th Jul 2011
Local heroes Show of Hands returned to their home turf and gave us reason to be proud that they are dedicated Devonians who continue to encourage and support regional talent and indeed this festival which they play every year.
The Ham Marquee was buzzing with excitement and this year provided a much more professional layout than previously, with a dozen rows of banked seats at the back and the bar outside the venue, rather than inside which cut out the chatter and clatter. Looking round at the audience it was interesting to see what an eclectic mix they were; from punky teens with purple hair, to glamorous young mums, a good smattering of fellow musicians come to pay homage and locals and diehard folkies alike.
Steve Knightly came on stage to introduce the acts to loud applause from the packed house and first up were Tom Short and Sam Perry who collectively with their guest singer Pip are Morning Rush. Tom is in fact Steve Knightly's nephew and there is no doubt that this young man is learning his considerable stage craft from his uncle who was on stage to support but only in the back ground assisting at times with harmonies and backing guitar. These three are no X Factor style boy band and their songs are the opposite of 'urban pop' in that they sing of the countryside and the sea. I would guess they have listened to artists such as Nick Drake and James Taylor as their delivery and harmonies are melodic and well structured, with some interesting jazz overtones. Look out for them in the future and check out their first album 'Race Track'. We will be seeing much more of them on the festival circuit I'm sure.
Next up, Phil Beer came on to introduce local girl Jackie Oates who is always a crowd pleaser. Phil accompanied her on her opener of 'Sweet Nightingale' which had the audience singing along beautifully. Jackie is full of surprises and new arrangements and her version of the Lincolnshire song 'Brig Fair' on which she plays a viola and a violin pizzicato style, one in each hand, whilst singing divinely was a highlight. She also gave a very moving version of 'Past Caring' a poignantly sad song adapted from the poems of the Australian Henry Lawson, for which she chose the Shooter Box to accompany herself on. A wonderful set which demonstrated this young womans talents as a musician and singer to the full.
Jackie was followed by Jim Causley, whose rich baritone was at its best. He started off by paying tribute to a local town by singing a thrilling unaccompanied version of the Martin Graver song 'Honiton Lace' which was created from a newspaper article of 1810. Jim's natural soft Devon dialect gave real impact and sympathy to this song depicting the hardships of the old hand lace maker's life. This young man just gets better and better. Jim also gave us a superb version of Ralph McTell's 'Barges' accompanying himself on melodeon. This song happens to be a personal favourite and carries with it a great atmosphere of summer and childhood remembered. Jim is always good value, being funny, enthusiastic and energetic, as well as bearing a unique sweet voice.
Phil was then back on stage to introduce the relative newcomers Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin. What a talent these two are with Phil on Dobro, guitar, harmonicas and vocals and Hannah on fiddle, banjo and vocals. Phil can really play slide superbly and this duo actually started playing at Sidmouth a few years back at the open mic sessions at Dukes... now they're on the main stage supporting Show of Hands... and well deserved! The combination of Hannah's soaring voice which has shades of Joni Mitchell, and Phil's innovative playing is stunning.
It is impossible to pin down the genre of this music as it moves from down home Americana, through self penned songs, to English folk, to eastern European sounds... sometimes with Phil playing two harmonicas at once and also introducing vocal 'Beatboxing' to add percussion. These are a duo to watch out for who are incredibly talented and very entertaining.
And so to the main event, Show of Hands themselves. With Miranda Sykes on double bass and vocals this was a great end to a wonderful evenings entertainment. Steve Knightly uses the stage so expertly that he makes it look effortless and the band worked their way through favourites and new additions with great professionalism and superb musicianship.
I haven't heard them sing 'The Blue Cockade' for a while now and it is good to hear Miranda's wonderful vocal range on this one. An interesting addition was Bruce Springsteen's 'Youngstown' followed by 'Santiago' and crowd pleasers such as 'Country Life', 'Roots' and 'Cousin Jack'. Show of Hands are such virtuosos in their playing and singing and this was enhanced by wonderful sound engineering from the Ham crew who certainly had all the acts sounding their best. Needless to say the audience joined in heartily with the choruses and there was an atmosphere of mutual respect and affection between audience and these home grown local heroes.
This was an uplifting evening's entertainment which showed some of the local talent at its best and also showed the generosity of spirit of Show of Hands in their support for these unique local acts.
review by: Josie Kemp
last updated: Tue 19th Jul 2011
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